by Jim Larkin
A community group will not be directly responding to a full page advertisement that it says contained blatant untruths about gay people, but it will be attempting to ease the pain caused by it.
The steering committee for Holland Is Ready, a community group formed to make the area more inclusive of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, decided July 28 that it will offer an apology to local LGBT residents for the ad, which claimed to be sponsored by the Family Research Council and Request Foods.
The July 23 ad published by the Holland Sentinel stated, among other things, that homosexuality is a choice and homosexuals can be changed into heterosexuals “sometimes spontaneously.” It added that gay people experience higher levels of mental illness than heterosexuals and are not seriously disadvantaged by discrimination.
“Our hearts break when we see statements like that, knowing the pain they cause,” said Jennifer Adams, a steering committee member of Holland Is Ready. “(We are) working on a collective apologetic response from various social justice groups in the area.”
But the majority of the group’s efforts will continue to be focused on education, community action and support for an initiative that would make discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity illegal in the city of Holland.
That initiative has been referred to the city’s Human Relations Commission and it is expected to make a recommendation to the Holland City Council, said Bill Freeman, chaplain of Interfaith Congregation, who made the initial request for such an anti-discrimination ordinance.
“We will continue doing our work and allow community voices to speak out on the issue,” Adams said.
Those voices have been overwhelmingly critical of the ad. Several lead letters to the editor in the Sentinel have countered the claims made by the Family Research Council, and two of them received more comments than all letters except one. Responses to the those letters were predominantly supportive.
One letter, written by Dr. Dwight McBride, a dean at the University of Illinois at Chicago and Saugatuck resident, drew 68 comments, 50 of which were supportive of his letter.
“Despite what FRC and Request Foods would have us believe, none of this is about behaviors, sexual or otherwise. It is about being free to love and to fall in love without fear that whom I love will cause my civil rights …to be denied me,” McBride wrote.
“This is not about gay and straight, the political right or left, or even whether you ‘believe in homosexuality.’ It is about my right to live my life with the fullest access to the same life, liberty and pursuit of happiness that my fellow citizens enjoy. No more. No less. Just equal.”
Not all of the readers responding to the letter on the Sentinel’s website liked what McBride had to say.
“I’m sick and tired of homosexuality given equal basis with race, religion and national origin… If this ordinance is passed, then the City of Holland will bind themselves into permitting the Rainbow Coalition to have representation during Tulip Time. A Gay Rights float, but no Right to Life float. Perfect,” wrote sheriff.
“I’m tired of this gay debate,” added BjornJohnson. “I never thought I’d actually be wishing for more articles about windmills.”
But the big majority supported McBride.
“The FRC and its members and backers are the belly of Holland which crawls through the mud while waving the American and Christian flag. That is supposed to make them superior in cause, patriotism and statute while all others are lesser mortals,” wrote MorninJoe.
“So sad someone feels they have a ‘right’ to discriminate based on their personal fears and lack of understanding the human condition,” added djds.
“Listening to a bunch of straight people tell gay people they’re not oppressed is insulting to both groups,” wrote sweedgirl.
And one said what is happening in Holland provides hope elsewhere.
“It would appear based on these posts that there is hope,” commented anewlook. “More people are in favor of equal right for all. If it can happen in Holland, there is hope in the world.”
Request Foods, upon learning of the anti-gay advertisement in the Holland Sentinel that was purportedly paid for by the Holland, Mich.-based food packaging company, issued a statement disassociating itself from the full-page paid advertisement.
Here’s what the statement said:
“On July 23, a paid advertisement appeared in the Holland Sentinel addressing the issue of homosexuality as a civil right. The ad inaccurately stated that it was sponsored by Request Foods. Request is a privately held company with multiple investors. The ad was paid for by one of these investors without our management team’s knowledge or permission. The opinions expressed in the ad do not reflect Request Foods’ views and the ad should not have included our company name.
Request Foods is a leading co-packer of frozen prepared entrees, side dishes and specialty items. For over 20 years, our company has been comprised of people from various races, nationalities and backgrounds. Integrity, respect and teamwork are core values of our company. As a good corporate citizen, we also strive to be honest, fair, courteous and professional in all that we do.”
Watch for updates on this story at https://www.pridesource.com.